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Pro Teams Allowing Fans As Pa. Eases Restrictions

Pittsburgh Pirates' David Bednar delivers a pitch during a spring training baseball workout Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021, in Bradenton, Fla. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

HARRISBURG, Pa. — Pennsylvania is paving the way for fans at pro sports venues whose stands have been empty for a year or more, easing restrictions on large gatherings to reflect a sustained slide in new COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths. It is also lifting restrictions on out-of-state travel.

Outdoor venues are now allowed to host events up to 20% of their maximum capacity, while indoor occupancy will be 15% of maximum capacity, regardless of venue size, state officials said.

“We need to balance protecting public health with leading the state to a robust economic recovery,” Gov. Tom Wolf said in a news release. “We are lifting mitigation efforts only when we believe it is safe to do so.”

The Pittsburgh Penguins said it would allow 2,800 fans into PPG Paints Arena for Tuesday’s game against the Philadelphia Flyers. It will be the Pens’ first home game with fans since a victory over Montreal on March 8, 2020.

Pittsburgh Pirates President Travis Williams said opening day at PNC Park “will be much more than a game. It will mark a significant step in overcoming this pandemic.”

In Philadelphia, the Wells Fargo Center said it would quickly allow fans into Flyers and 76ers games if city officials give the go-ahead.

“We’re ready to safely welcome fans back to Broad Street, and as soon as the city further eases its restrictions, we will have Flyers and 76ers fans in the building within days,” said Valerie Camillo, president of business operations for the Flyers and Wells Fargo Center.

James Garrow, spokesperson for the city health department, said Monday that officials are studying what needs to be done to “bring Philadelphia into alignment with the state.”

The governing body for Pennsylvania interscholastic sports, meanwhile, said the relaxed statewide limits could pave the way for fans at winter sports playoff contests. The board of the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association said it would discuss the matter at its meeting on Wednesday.

For both indoor and outdoor events, venues must require masks and follow physical distancing guidelines, state officials said. Venues will be permitted to seat spectators in groups of up to 10, or more than 10 if everyone lives in the same household. Seating pods must be separated by at least 6 feet.

Separately, the state is doing away with a requirement that people who are traveling to Pennsylvania from another state, as well as Pennsylvania residents who are returning home from out of state, must test negative for the virus within 72 hours prior to arrival. Under the order, people who did not get tested were supposed to quarantine for 14 days.

State officials said they took into account the expanding percentage of residents who have been vaccinated, as well as the COVID-19 test positivity rate, the rate of new infections and hospital capacity, in deciding to ease restrictions.

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